Tormes is the name coined for him. However, where we really are is in the parish of Santa Cruz do Douroin the municipality of baiãoor more properly the Union of Parishes of Santa Cruz do Douro and São Tomé de Covelas.
That’s where the Eça de Queiroz Foundationwhere an important part of the writer’s estate can still be admired and even taste an absolutely unique meal.
Carved into the cliffs of the Douro, it is a journey full of Queiroz references, even if the writer spent very little time there.
It is an immense green space, with the smell of earth and vineyards, fruits and pine needles, a bucolic landscape that ended up inspiring one of Eça’s best-known books, The City and the Mountainspublished after his death.
The House of Tormes it would end up being immortalized in the lyrics and its journey has been made until the present day. And it’s really worth a visit.
Tormes: on the path of a genius writer
The Eça de Queiroz Foundation has its headquarters at Casa de Tormes, in Quinta da Vila Nova, a space dedicated to perpetuating the memory of one of the most extraordinary Portuguese writers.
One of its objectives is to promote, in Portugal and abroad, a work that has resisted the erosion of time and that continues to be read with reverence and admiration by successive generations.
The current house is beautiful, far from the dreadful place that Eça must have faced when he went to visit the farm that, in family shares, had belonged to his wife, Emília de Castro.
At the moment, the educational and cultural aspect assumes a particular importance in the Foundation’s activityand it is imperative to visit the museum center that houses practically all of Eça’s collection that has survived to this day.
There is guided tours (with a general price of 5 euros, but discounts for seniors, youth card holders and school visits), and inside you can see the writer’s personal objects, such as the high desk where he wrote standing up, some furniture from the house in Neully-sur -Seine, in Paris, where he died, the trunk of his manuscripts or the original oriental gourd given to him and with which he had his photograph taken.
A visit to the Eça de Queiroz Foundation is not in itself a visit to the Queiroz universe.
It is a journey through the most personal objects of a writer who created stories and environments that are still identified as authentic today. Many were not. They are the fruit of his prodigious imagination, but Eça was not a historian. However, there were moments described in the books that are still appreciated and experienced today.
An example is the glorious meal described in the book A Cidade e as Serras and which is recreated in Tormes restauranton the foundation’s premises.
On the menu you can choose the very famous broad bean ricecodfish with peppers and chickpeas, cabidela, poultry fricassee or roast sirloin.
It is Queiroz gastronomy in all its splendor, with wine tastings also available (for a minimum group of ten people) that include wine, juice, bread, ham and olives.
Tormes: Path of Hyacinth
Everyone’s mouth will be watering by now, but, as a matter of fact, it must be said that we started this tour at the end.
First, you have to tread the ground to the house. And this is done by following the hyacinth’s patha trail that aims to recreate the walk undertaken by one of the protagonists of the book A Cidade e as Serras (precisely Jacinto), when he arrives in the Douro for the first time.
Thus, the starting point is the Aregos train station And here’s a warning: the climb is steep, but it’s worth every millimeter of terrain. The path is marked and passes through some landmarks that anyone who has read Eça’s work will recognize.
It is said that it was the path that the author took the first time he went to Santa Cruz do Douro and that he later shaped in his work. And if he didn’t like the house, the surroundings won him over. And at the end of the path he wrote:
“Thus, slowly and in wonder, we arrived at that avenue of beeches which had always enchanted me by its noble gravity. (…) and at the bottom of the beeches, in fact, appeared the gate of the farm of Tormes, with its coat of arms in centuries-old granite, which the moss retouched and aged further”.
Eça de Queiroz, The City and the Mountains
As we said at the beginning, although many people know that place as Tormes, the truth is that we are in Santa Cruz do Douro. And beyond the Foundation, there is much to see and document.
First of all, the cemetery where the remains of Eça de Queiroz lie, but in terms of religious heritage, you shouldn’t miss the churches of Santa Cruz do Douro and São Tomé de Covelas or one of the many chapels that exist in different parts of the parish.
There are also some stately homes that you should not miss. Such as Casa de Agrelos, Casa de Cabeção or Casa da Capela. They were the dwellings of the ancient nobles, strongly oriented towards agricultural production.
A Lodeiro House it also has another particularity, which is also connected to the lyrics: it is inserted in the drama Fanny Owen, by Agustina Bessa-Luís. Another space to discover is monim villagewhere you can find a bucolic, almost untouched environment, with the caretaker’s house, the threshing floor, the porch and the canastro.
Finally, when you’re in the region, don’t forget that you’re in the Vinho Verde domain and that Baião is a sub-region of this famous nectar.
There are many to try and that can divinely accompany the local cuisine, made of flavors such as oven-baked rice with roasted lamb, broad bean rice with golden brown chicken or Arouquesa beef.